Reading it for the Articles

I never had to steal Playboy from a convenience store when I was in junior high. After all, I grew up with the Internet.

My household went online in 1997. I was 12. Suddenly there was a godlike device in my home that could produce free nudity. It was a magical time to be alive.

My relationship with Playboy resembled my relationship with the sun; I didn’t look at it much, but I was glad it existed.

Even though I didn’t read it, I liked the idea of Playboy. The bunnies, the mansion, Hugh Hefner’s smoking jacket, the song “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

So I felt distressed when I heard about Playboy’s financial woes. They can shut down Merrill Lynch, sell Budweiser to Belgium, and cancel TRL. But Playboy is an American institution, damn it.

The saddest part is that Playboy is an excellent magazine, even if you never look at the photographs. Yes, I’m talking about reading it for the articles.

Take the November issue, for example. In “The Playboy Forum,” political commentator Tavis Smiley discusses what Barack Obama’s candidacy has (and hasn’t) said about race relations in America.

Also in the Forum, a number of commentators suggest ways to increase voter turnout. Alexander Keysar of Harvard says we should reinstitute the draft, because it would tell voters “that history is something that can happen to them.” This is probably the worst idea I’ve ever heard, but it kept me reading.

Senior editor Chip Rowe’s feature, “The Hard Facts,” taught me everything I ever wanted to know, and quite a bit that I didn’t, about the human penis. This is the kind of thing you don’t get in Newsweek.

Playboy’s content is a charming mix of high and low culture. In addition to the meaty articles, this issue delivers news about the latest video games and the new James Bond flick. Then there are the silly party jokes, such as, “What do you call a woman who can suck a golf ball through a garden hose?”*

I admire Playboy’s dedication to printing short fiction. Vladimir Nabokov, Ian Fleming, and Ray Bradbury have all published in Playboy. I was thrilled when I saw the title of this month’s tale, “The Wraith,” by J. Robert Lennon. Not just fiction, but horror fiction! Sadly, Lennon’s prose sounds forced and the story gets too preachy. I still appreciate the effort.

None of this is radically different from the content of other men’s mags (GQ, Maxim, etc). What sets Playboy apart is that, if you somehow get bored with all these articles, you’re only a few pages from seeing a B-list celeb in the buff. Which is nice, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I hope Playboy can stay afloat. Even though I was never a regular reader, I might become one. $12 for a one-year subscription? A measly 12 bones to support a lasting symbol of American masculinity?

It would be my pleasure, Mr. Hefner.

—Nick Roberts

*Darling.

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